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For most of the year the local art museum screens a film every week. A week or so back they showed Red Cliff (2008, directed by John Woo).  Going in I’m not quite sure what I was expecting other than something similar to the few Chinese films I’ve seen.  I knew it was a war epic and so I expected the usual fighting and talk of freedom or protection of home.  What I hadn’t expected, however, was the humanity infused into our heroes and even the villains.

Throughout the film quiet moments between the characters allow us an insight into the culture and its importance to the people.  Music and the traditional tea ceremony are woven carefully into the plot ushering both the violence of war and quiet moments of thought, both for the characters and the audience.

The role of women within the film was refreshing and well played.  The women were strong but still fit well within their traditional roles, holding true to the underlying focus on history and tradition.

My only complaint is that they weren’t screening the longer two part version of the film. I would’ve like to have seen more of the history predating the war and perhaps a bit more of the culture.

If you like war epics the film’s a definite must see, with the extended battle scenes the film comes out far in front of most recent films.  Much of the film is filled with scenes of war, and yet the violence never becomes violence for violence’s sake.  It’s done carefully with each battle having it’s own feel.  If, however, you’re not a fan of war epics, the film is still worth seeing for it’s breathtaking cinematography and for it’s preservation of humanity throughout.

Personally I’d give the film a 3.5 out of 5. I’d rewatch it again, but would fast forward through most of the battle scenes as that’s not something I particularly enjoy.  While never brutal, that much bloodshed doesn’t sit right with me. I’m all for fighting for what you believe in, but I prefer it in a much less literal sense.